Turkmenistan – top 5 Places to Visit
If you are planning to explore Turkmenistan, do not miss these natural and cultural highlights:
#1 Ashgabat – Monumental capital city full of Marble and golden architecture
Ashgabat is the capital city of Turkmenistan, and it is one of the most interesting places that you can visit! Did you know that Ashgabat holds a Guinness record for the highest density of white marble-clad buildings in the world? The city also holds the record for the greatest number of fountain pools in a public space and many other curiosities. There are several options for a day trip from Ashgabat, such as visiting the ancient ruins of Old Nisa or visiting a horse farm with the famous breed of Akhal Teke Horses.
#2 Darvaza – gas crater also known as a “Gate of Hell”
One of the most unusual touristic highlights around the world is this burning gas crater also known as the “Gate of Hell.” Darvaza from Turkmen means Gate, and the flames from the huge crater in the middle of the desert evoke the imagination of both travelers and locals. The history behind this mysterious crater is remarkably simple, as in 1971 Soviet geologists had been drilling for gas at the site of a cavern. The cavern collapsed, releasing the gas. Nobody was injured; however, fearing of getting poisoned, the gas was set on fire on purpose. There are no accurate records of the event, but the fact is that this gas cavern has been burning since then. The diameter of the crater is 69 meters and the depth is 30. You can go around it, and since 2018, there is even a fence installed for the travelers’ safety. You can visit this amazing site in the Karakum desert, and it is impressive to stay overnight and see it at night. In 2013, there was another Guinness record set by the first man to get down to the bottom of the gas crater. This was part of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying, but as the name of the show says, you better not try to go down, unless you also want to set a World Record.
#3 YangyKala – surreal cliffs and landscape of canyons
The impressive canyons of Yangykala formed 5.5 million years ago, and these amazing limestone landscapes have been formed by the rivers and winds of the Karakum desert. Around 15 million years ago, this area was a coastal region of the ancient Paratethys ocean/sea. It is one of the highlights of the country, but not many tourists go there, so if you decide to explore these parts of the country, it is most likely that you will have it all for yourself. You can reach it either from Balkanabat or Turkmenbashi, as from both cities the distance is about 160 km.
#4 Merv – Ruins of an ancient city that was once one of the biggest cities in the world
Merv is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, and its ruins comprise 4000 years of history. Until the 11th century, it was one of the important learning centers in the Islamic world. In the 11th-12th centuries, it used to be the capital of the Great Seljuks Empire. In the 13th century, it had a population of more than 500,000 and was considered as one of the largest cities in the world at that time. It was destroyed by the Mongol Empire in 1221, and since then it was partially rebuilt several times, but never achieved its former glory. Nowadays, you can walk around the ruins of ancient fortresses, medieval streets, and even visit the mausoleum of Seljuk ruler Sultan Sanjar. The territory of the site covers an area of 353 ha with a buffer zone of 883 ha. Walking in these huge mud-brick ruins, it is hard to imagine it was once an important city on the Silk Road.
#5 Gonur Tepe – one of the most ancient settled cities
This is another impressive archeological site located 60 km away from ancient Merv. The site is an early Bronze Age settlement dated from 2400-1600 BCE. It was excavated in the 1970s and was identified as one of the largest cities of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) or the Oxus Civilization. Gonur Depe was one of the earliest cities. It had been carefully planned, had its own drains, streets, quartiers of houses, and temples probably used for religious ceremonies. It is believed to be one of the early centers of the Zoroastrian religion. There are many ceramics and stone artifacts found there as well as jewelry. The excavations started in 1976 under the leadership of Victor Sarianidi, and there are still excavations going on there.
If you would like to explore these places in a small group tour, you can join our Best of Turkmenistan Tour, or if you would like to organize a private tour that offers flexibility in terms of schedule and sightseeing places, just let us know through our booking form.